At any time of the year, the sun setting on Lake Trasimeno is a work of art. The sky glows as the sun descends behind the Tuscan hills, with the pinks and oranges reflecting on the shallow lake.
But in the heat of an Italian summer, a day exploring Trasimeno lake in Umbria is a welcome relief.
Trasimeno lake has ancient olive groves, quality vineyards, and three islands to explore, making it a little slice of heaven.
Few tourists come and make use of the great food grown here or learn about its long history, making it the perfect spot to explore the green heart of Italy.
There are many ways to spend a day on the fourth biggest lake in Italy in beautiful green Umbria. A protected National park, one option is to go for a hike on the trails above.
Or to rent a bike to ride the bike path that circles around the entire lake, making stops for photos or to take a dip.
My first choice is to take a ferry to two of the three islands. Or if you’re short on time simply enjoying a meal looking out onto the lake at one of the many restaurants is worth it; a pasta dish, fish from the lake, and a local bottle of wine.
This is how I spend a full day enjoying Trasimeno lake when friends visit.
What do you need for a day on Trasimeno Lake?
- Like anywhere in Italy, I recommend bringing a water bottle. There are several spots on the island and around the lake that you can refill it with fresh cold water.
- A light jacket incase it cools down, or the wind picks up on the water.
- A sun hat if it’s the summer and sun cream/block.
- In Spring or Autumn, I’d recommend an umbrella just in case.
- Good shoes for walking, like trainers or hiking boots. To explore the island the trails, are gravel or dirt tracks. Walking around the towns also adds kilometers so make sure you aren’t in pain by the end of the day.
- Cash. Small bills and change for parking and paying for the ferry. Many places don’t take cash.
Begin on the west side of Trasimeno Lake at Castiglione del Lago
Right on the border with Tuscany, Castiglione del Lago is one of the bigger towns around the lake. Park the car below the steps going up into the historic center.
When you get to the top of the stairs turn around and look out at the straight road that you drove into the town. It’s been there since the Romans lived here.
Have you had breakfast? Fancy a second? On holiday I usually indulge in
Stroll through the town, admire the views, ruins, and pretty new shops. Castiglione del Lago dates back to the Romans. It sits on top of a peninsula with a fortress at the tip. There are lots of shops selling souvenirs, like olive wood cutting boards, local olive oil, and cured meats.
Drive to Passignano sul Trasimeno
A popular town to visit on Trasimeno lake, the town is full of lakefront restaurants, bars, and gelaterias. The lakefront is perfect for those with mobility issues as the walk is wide and smooth by Italian standards with lots of benches.
In August it’s about perfect for a slow-paced stroll since it’s flat with many places to stop and enjoy the moment.
After exploring the newer part of town, heavily bombed in WWII, head up behind for the older town. By the tourist information office, there are stairs cases to find the historic center.
Expect pretty stonework and more views of the two islands nearby, Isola Maggiore and Isola Minore. There’s even a small museum to wander
Take a ferry to Isola Maggiore
Having grown up on an island, taking the ferry is very much a way to combat homesickness. For me, it’s a comfort and gives
You can take the ferry from Passignano or from Tuoro (halfway between Castiglione and Passignano). It’s a pretty 15
It costs about 6 euros return per person. The Tuoro boat is low on the water with the pier jetting out from sculpture park and beach bums. The one at Passignano is just a cement parking lot, but the seats are higher up and all protected from the sun/rain
The ferries run all year round, but the summer months are far more frequent. Find out the times here.
There is no ferry to the smallest island beside Maggiore, called Minore, as it’s privately owned.
An Island lunch on Trasimeno Lake
Get off the boat and arrive in the most populated area of the island. For a full sit down meal, there are a few restaurants specializing in the fish from the lake. Or grab a
Isola Maggiore on Trasimeno Lake
Spend the afternoon exploring the island. It’s a great spot for hiking, with beaches to wade in, a museum and lots of picture perfect spots.
With olive trees dating from hundreds of years ago, this island is full of history, oddities, and monuments.
Isola Maggiore is the medium-sized island of the three found on Trasimeno lake. And it’s the only one with a town. Sadly the population is
There’s a castle for sale (or it was in 2019) which isn’t accessible for health and safety reasons.
The older women sit in the shade and crotchet the lace they’re famous for.
There are two churches, both worth a look. One is at the top of the hill, Saint Micheal the Archangel from the 12th century, with some great views (careful, it’s closed over lunch 13.00-15.00).
The second church is smaller, Chiesa San Salvatore. Not far, it’s just on the outskirts of the town and up from the beach.
Not always open, it’s beautifully kept up and has great acoustics. Near the end of the summer you might get lucky and hear a concert.
Other Points of Interest on Isola Maggiore
Isola Maggiore is known for being a spot that Saint Francis of Assisi lived as a hermit in around 1211 over Lent.
Down from the church of Saint Michael, there’s a little shrine over the stone/cave which he inhabited here. His time here inspired the establishment of a Franciscan Monastery in the 14th century.
The monastery brought with it the town, so most buildings in the town date from this era.
In the center of town is the museum. It focuses on the story of lace making on the island.
But the museum also talks about the
Back on the Umbrian Mainland
Once back to the mainland, get the car and drive on the small roads around the lake.
Head to Magione, if you have time and energy stop at the beautiful castle and cantina for some wine tasting. Called Castello di Magione, check out their website here. Then keep on driving till you arrive at until Sant’Arcangelo.
Stop for dinner at Faliero, a great local spot for dinner. Depending on the time of year you can enjoy a beautiful sunset either inside or outside-or even on the roof.
I have a few favorite things to eat here. We always share an Umbrian sandwich; the torta al
An Evening Gelato in San Feliciano
Turn back and find San Feliciano.
This tiny town on the eastern shore is known for its original fishing boats, a blues festival, and the perfect gelato.
Called Polo Nord (North Pole) I love this gelato-it might be my favorite of all time. There’s a little marina, and I just take a seat for a bit of peace and quiet before heading back.
What if you aren’t renting a car in Umbria?
If you don’t have a car, you can still spend the day enjoying Trasimeno Lake. Just without the gelato in San Feliciano or dinner at Faliero.
Take the train from Perugia to Castiglione at 8 am for €5. Then head to Passignano (for €3.50, changing at Terontola/Cortona) at 11 am. Have lunch and take the ferry over to enjoy the afternoon on the island. Once back on the mainland, grab the train back to Perugia for €3.50 at 19.50.
You could also bike/walk from Perugia to the lake and enjoy a tour that way. Just bear in mind that it’s not a small lake. Biking around the lake will take 4 hours, and there isn’t much shade.
Take a Break at Lago Trasimeno
Trasimeno lake is a peaceful spot full of sites, sounds and flavors to keep you coming back for more.
Interested in staying longer than a day? I’ve written an overview of the towns and activities on Trasimeno Lake here.